Is Pennsylvania History?

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On a recent whirlwind through Pennsylvania, I thought of James Carville, who popularized the notion that “It's Philadelphia on one side, Pittsburgh on the other, and Alabama in the middle.” It’s a clever line, but between the Ohio and Delaware rivers he is missing a great American tapestry: the wreck of the Penn-Central, United flight 93’s final frantic moments, the social history of the Johnstown flood, and whether a state of steel and coal is past or present.  read more »

China’s Urban Challenge: Balancing Sustainable Economic Growth and Soaring Property Prices


Today, Beijing seeks to balance strong economic growth and soaring prices amidst a severe global crisis and debt turmoil in advanced economies. The challenge is colossal – to provide urban space for more than 600 million people in the coming decades.

For months, the famous hedge fund wizard, James Chanos, has been predicting a severe Chinese property slump. As he puts it, “Dubai times 1,000 – or worse,” with the “potential to be a similar watershed event for world markets as the reversal of the U.S. subprime and housing boom.”  read more »

Planning’s Cultural Cringe?


First it was Portland, Oregon, touted as a poster child for urban planning in Australia. Now, Vancouver, Canada, is the comparison, and are we seeing another incarnation of Australia’s infamous cultural cringe?

Advocates of higher density and the “brawl against sprawl” in Australia frequently cite overseas cities as model case studies. Portland, Oregon, was for a long time cited as a good example of pro-density housing strategies which sought to limit ‘sprawl’, to promote public transport by investing in things like light rail, and to promote cycling and a range of other planning ‘solutions’ that would sound remarkably familiar in Australia.  read more »

Stimulus, Spending and Animal Spirits: How to Grow the Economy

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The most fanatical Keynesians are losing their composure. Brad DeLong, a prominent Berkeley economist and Keynesian, is virtually yelling that “We Need Bigger Deficits Now!”, emphasis his. Paul Krugman does DeLong one better, calling proponents of fiscal responsibility madmen.  read more »

Time to Dismantle the American Dream?


For some time, theorists have been suggesting that it is time to redefine the American Dream of home ownership. Households, we are told, should live in smaller houses, in more crowded neighborhoods and more should rent. This thinking has been heightened by the mortgage crisis in some parts of the country, particularly in areas where prices rose most extravagantly in the past decade. And to be sure, many of the irrational attempts – many of them government sponsored – to expand ownership to those not financially prepared to bear the costs need to curbed.  read more »

The Downside of Brit-Bashing


Obama may be spanking BP’s brass today. But the other crisis—Europe’s economic mess—reminds us why it’s important that the U.S. and U.K. stick together.

The controversy over the BP spill threatens to drive US-UK relations to a historic low point. When recently in London, several people worried that the President may be engaging in “Brit-bashing” at the expense of our historically close ties. This theme has been widely picked up in the UK press.  read more »

L.A.'s Economy Is Not Dead Yet


"This is the city," ran the famous introduction to the popular crime drama Dragnet. "Los Angeles, Calif. I work here." Of course, unlike Det. Sgt. Joe Friday, who spoke those words every episode, I am not a cop, but Los Angeles has been my home for over 35 years.

To Sgt. Friday, L.A. was a place full of opportunities to solve crimes, but for me Los Angeles has been an ideal barometer for the city of the future. For the better part of the last century, Los Angeles has been, as one architect once put it, "the original in the Xerox machine." It largely invented the blueprint of the modern American city: the car-oriented suburban way of life, the multi-polar metropolis around a largely unremarkable downtown, the sprawling jumble of ethnic and cultural enclaves of a Latin- and Asian-flavored mestizo society.  read more »

The Politics of Risk

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Barack Obama has reached for the mantle of a transformative presidency, aspiring to recast our national social contract in the interest of greater equality and fairness. In cooperation with a Democratic-controlled Congress, he has pursued this goal by expanding Federal authority in response to economic crises and supporting interventions into finance and banking, automobile manufacturing, health care, and environmental policy. This strategy adopts the “statist” philosophy of economic risk management by centralizing governmental authority and control over private markets.  read more »


Florida: Amendment 4 Pushes the Reset Button on Development

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by Richard Reep

Like a heroin addict going cold turkey, Florida appears poised to get off the growth drug this coming fall. If massive overbuilding, unemployment, depopulation, and a tourist-chasing oil slick weren’t enough, Florida’s voters are in the mood to vote yes on a referendum called Amendment 4, which would make every future change to the state’s comprehensive plan subject to voter approval, rather than be reviewed through a representative public process. The referendum capitalizes on short-term voter outrage over everything. But in the long term, Florida will likely languish in the twilight of missed opportunities as businesses relocate elsewhere to avoid risky, lengthy public campaigns to build their presence in this state.  read more »

An Awakening: The Beginning of the Great Deconstruction


The federal debt climbed above $13 trillion this month. An easier way to define the national debt is to comprehend that we each owe more than $39,000 to the Chinese, Japanese, and Arabs of the Persian Gulf. The budget deficit will exceed $1.5 trillion this year and forty-seven states are running deficits. California has a $19 billion deficit and its legislature’s landmark response was to pass a law banning plastic bags. Our cities are in worse shape. The former mayor of Los Angeles, Richard Riordan, says that a bankruptcy by that city is inevitable.  read more »